Besides getting physically trained to the bone by a demanding drill instructor, recruits in boot camp have another element that is feared and rarely talked about outside of the military — the “blanket party.”
A blanket party is a form of (mob) discipline that usually takes place in a military barracks setting, typically in an open bay.
Soap wrapped in a towel is a common tool to use during a blanket party. (Image via Giphy)We don’t condone taking part in blanket parties, but the idea is to coerce a shitty recruit back on the right track. Usually it brings a massive shitstorm of legal problems — no one wants that.
But before you step into the squad bay for the first time and subject yourself to the collective judgement of the team, here are some things to avoid so you’re never in a blanket party’s sights.
Recruits go through some tough times during their stay in basic training and alliances tend to form. Recruits always get in trouble in one way or another.
When a single person reports wrongdoing on a group of people or an individual, they might get payback in the form of a blanket party.
For not being a team player
One of the purposes of boot camp is to learn the power of teamwork. Rarely has a single person ever completed a mission by themselves. So when a recruit doesn’t pull his own weight, that can easily screw over the whole team.
If that person continually screws over everyone, that individual might get some unwanted attention after “Taps” gets played.
Being a consistent f*ck up.
In boot camp, when someone in the squad screws up, everyone gets punished. The drill instructors usually punish the whole squad bay for an individual’s mistake to teach the importance of teamwork.
It takes multiple times before someone earns a party, but after making several mistakes that affect everybody — without a glimpse of positive production — recruits tend to take matters into their own hands.
Like we said before, alliances tend to develop in boot camp. Most of the time they form around where your bunks are located. Getting along with others is essential in any industry. In the military, troops have commonly sacrificed their lives to save their brothers. You rarely commit your life to someone you don’t respect.
So in a world where recruits are trained to defend themselves and our country as a team, the guy that can’t make friends tends to suffer.
Again, we can’t stress this enough, We Are The Mighty absolutely does not condone blanket parties…but in the past they have sometimes been a huge “wake-up call” for someone on the receiving end.
Rachel is an Air Force spouse and Texas native whose husband flies as an F-16 pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
It was October 2015 and Hurricane Joaquin was headed right for us. I stared out the back patio at the darkening skies as my husband, an F-16 pilot, packed his bags.
To say I am the mistress in my own marriage is to admit that there are times my wishes and well-being have come second to that of the Fighting Falcon, and it bruises my pride to say it. I’d like to think I’m the #1 lady in his life, but there have been times that just wasn’t the case. Some people have the gall to say, “Well, that’s what you signed up for.” To hell with them.
All the same, he will always take the call. Apparently, I missed the part of my wedding vows that included “to honor, love and protect each other (*once the safety of the F-16 is ensured) from this day and for the rest of your life.”
We were stationed in South Carolina at Shaw AFB, in the path of a storm which the state would come to call a “1-in-1,000 year event.” News of the destruction from Hurricane Joaquin traveled north from the Bahamas as the Southeast prepared for the worst. Sandbags were laid out, generators were gassed up for the inevitable power loss, and grocery stores were cleared out of bread, water, and beer. Pro tip: beer keeps, bread goes bad.
Before the storm of the century, I had imagined a romantic evening of boarding up the house by candlelight together, but the Air Force had a different idea. Turns out fighter jets don’t float too good.
Two days before the hurricane was projected to hit, Shaw called in its pilots and maintainers to move the jets inland to a base a few states away. This was what’s known as a HUREVAC. That’s short for HURricane EVACuation. Get it? The Department of Acronyms was working overtime that day. Civilians of South Carolina planned and prayed as Hurricane Joaquin drew closer, while families of the F-16 said goodbye to their airmen. We watched them fly away to safety, staying behind to literally weather the storm alone.
I’m from Texas. If you told me a tornado was coming, I’d throw some blankets in the bathtub and get ready to hunker down with our cat, Bonanza. However, a hurricane was a different beast altogether. We did not have drills for that in Dallas ISD. The buzz around Columbia, SC grew to a clamor as people asked each other in a mild panic what they were going to do. Some folks left town. Me? I spent the day converting my beer cooler into a kitty life raft and beer cooler.
Hurricane Joaquin never traveled directly over the States, but it created a storm that wreaked havoc on South Carolina for days. Nineteen deaths were attributed to the flooding in the state. First responders found one of those bodies at a corner near our neighborhood.
I watched the brown water creep up, over the retaining wall, consuming our backyard and getting closer to the house. I couldn’t help but wonder at what point it would be too late to pipe Bonanza aboard the S.S. Miller Lite, abandon the house to its fate, and head for higher ground. Didn’t matter. Turns out all the roads in the neighborhood were flooded anyway.
Meanwhile, the jets landed safely in… Louisiana? Immediately after landing the pilots checked in in accordance with Tech Orders: on Facetime, beer in hand. Is it the first or fifth? Only the Flight Doc can say, and he looks pretty buzzed.
Eventually, the raining stopped. Everyone came back safely, though in the midst of the storm many families suffered damage to their property. One couple lost their home and everything in it. Thankfully the water never came into our house, but irreparable damage had been done to the city and my ego.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love watches on as your husband leaves you behind in a hurricane to take off with that minxy fighter jet to Louisiana. Welcome to the life of the pilot spouse.
We’ve all thought it. If the zombie apocalypse broke out right now, what would you do?
Rush to the nearest gun store or shopping mall like everyone else? Which are both a terrible ideas. Parents lose their sh*t over toys for Christmas, let alone survival for their kids.
Well, the Department of Defense has you beat.
The much belittled CONPLAN 8888, also known as the “Counter-Zombie Dominance” plan was created as a training guide. The guide accompanies the scenario of political fallout, a broken chain of command, and a target rich environment. The very first words of the manual are “This plan was not actually designed as a joke.” Think of how the modern U.S. military trains combating the fictional “Pinelandians,” “Krasnovians,” and those damned diabolical “Donovians.”
The scenarios are fun instead of setting off some political red flags. After the forward, detailing how it’s a tongue-in-cheek way of planning around complete and utter chaos, it jumps head first into the absurd — to “undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde” in varying levels of Zombie Conditions (Z-CONs.)
At the bottom Z-Con Levels are Chicken Zombies and Vegetarian Zombies (and yes, they are referring to Plants vs Zombies). The zombies you do have to worry about are Pathogenic Zombies (created from a virus or bacteria), Radiation Zombies, Evil Magic Zombies, Space Zombies, and Weaponized Zombies.
CONPLAN 8888 has a six-step operational chart — because even in the apocalypse, you can’t escape those things. They are:
Phase 0: Shape
This phase is the current state of things. Training continues as normal. Doctrine is written. Contingency plans are formed. No zombie outbreak has happened as of yet.
Phase 1: Deter
This is when things kick off. Unless they are controlled by a nation state or non-governmental organization, zombies aren’t cognizant and can not be reasoned with, there’s only one thing to do. Get ready to kick some ass!
Phase 2: Seize the Initiative
All units must be ready and willing to deploy for 35 days. Troops will head out to infected areas to provide security and aid and to quarantine the area.
Phase 3: Dominate
Now is the time for ass kicking and the fun part every zombie movie is based on. Control through superior firepower. Prepare to shelter in place for up to forty days in case the worst happens.
Phase 4: Stabilize
Repeat all steps until the location is rendered safe enough. Seek and destroy all remaining threats. Deploy counter-zombie teams to weed out pockets of zombie resistance.
Phase 5: Restore Civil Authority
The zombie threat is gone and damage is probably widespread. Time to rebuild the world.
As silly and as ridiculous as the publication may seem, it takes the matter seriously. It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.
As the tech and information industries boomed in the 2010s, the decade was also rocked by scandals across both industries.
Tech companies are increasingly at the center of political and social issues in the US and across the globe, and the past 10 years saw a wave of abuses of power, failed business ventures, and disastrous gadget rollouts.
Facebook, Apple, and Google — some of the most powerful tech companies in existence — were the most frequent sites of scandal. However, startups and fringe organizations saw their share of infamy over the past ten years as well. And then there were the NSA spying revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Here are the biggest tech scandals from 2010 to the present.
2010: Over a dozen workers commit suicide after working under brutal conditions at a Chinese factory making iPhones, iPads, and HP computers
At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in Shenzen, China died by suicide over the course of 2010. Foxconn, which manufactures gadgets for clients including Apple, Nintendo, and HP, reportedly expected workers to put in extreme overtime shifts under dismal working conditions and with cruel management who would dock workers’ pay for minor infractions, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company reportedly installed safety nets to catch workers who jumped from upper stories and asked workers to sign a contract agreeing not to kill themselves.
Apple, HP, and other Foxconn clients said they would pressure Foxconn to improve its working conditions in the wake of the suicides. China also put new laws in place in 2012 limiting workers’ overtime hours.
2013: Edward Snowden releases confidential documents showing the NSA has secretly had access to Google and Yahoo servers
In one of the most famous whistleblower complaints in US history, former contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been spying on people’s Google and Yahoo accounts, retaining text, audio, and video at will without users’ knowledge.
Both Google and Yahoo expressed surprise at the findings, stating that they had not granted the government access to their servers. However, Google said in a statement that the company had “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping.” Snowden still faces charges of violating the Espionage Act — he is living in Moscow, where he has been granted asylum status.
2015: Volkswagen admits to cheating on emissions tests to make its cars seem more eco-friendly than they are
The Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Volkswagen was using “defeat devices” on its cars that detected when they were being tested for emissions and delivered artificial results to make them seem more environmentally friendly. Volkswagen confirmed the allegation, saying that 11 million of its cars were fitted with defeat devices.
The German car maker agreed to pay .3 billion in fines to the US and spend more than billion to address claims from regulators and car owners. Six Volkswagen executives faced criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the scheme.
2016: Apple ordered to pay €13 billion in EU back taxes after receiving tax breaks from Ireland that were ruled illegal
For more than a decade, Apple funneled its European operations through Ireland, capitalizing on massive tax breaks the small country offered it. In 2013, the European Union concluded a three-year investigation into the tax rates and ruled that those breaks were illegal, given that they only applied to Apple. The EU ordered Apple to pay the equivalent of .5 billion back to Ireland. Apple decried the decision, saying it would rethink its future European business ventures as a result.
Elizabeth Holmes, the chief executive officer and founder of Theranos.
2016: Theranos shutters its labs and faces a federal investigation over dubious claims about its blood-testing technology
One of the most notorious startup launches of the past decade, Theranos and its mercurial leader Elizabeth Holmes fell from grace after the company proved unable to fulfill its promises that it could run blood tests on a single drop of blood. Holmes is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation and faces charges of criminal fraud.
Galaxy Note 7 security bulletin.
2016: Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7s and shuts down production of the phones after several phones explode while charging
Samsung initiated a global recall of Galaxy Note 7 phones in early September 2016 after several models caught on fire, stating that it would begin shipping updated models that were safe. However, reports surfaced that multiple replacement phones were also catching on fire while charging, leading the South Korean company to halt production on the Galaxy Note 7 entirely.
(US House Intelligence Committee)
2017: Facebook says fake accounts linked to Russia bought thousands of ads during US election
Accounts that were “likely operated out of Russia” spent roughly 0,000 in Facebook ads beginning in June 2015 with the aim of influencing the 2016 presidential election, Facebook disclosed in September 2017. Before that announcement, Facebook had repeatedly insisted that it had no reason to believe that Russian actors bought ads in connection with the election. Facebook pledged that going forward it would take action to thwart attempted foreign-funded campaigns to influence US elections.
2017: A Google engineer circulates a manifesto criticizing the company’s attempts to increase gender and racial diversity
Google employees were outraged after James Damore, a Google engineer, circulated an anti-diversity manifesto within the company that criticized efforts to increase the number of women and minorities working there. “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo. The memo came during a time of increasing turbulence inside Google, with staffers raising concerns over company culture. Damore ultimately left the company.
2018: Google faces an internal reckoning after reports surface of sexual misconduct across the company, including prominent executive Andy Rubin
Thousands of employees walked out of Google offices in late 2018 after reports surfaced of sexual misconduct by high-ranking company officials. The New York Times reported that Google protected Andy Rubin, one of the creators of Android, while women who reported sexual misconduct internally said they were treated unfairly by Google’s forced arbitration policies. Rubin reportedly received tens of millions of dollars as part of his exit package, even after the company deemed the reports of misconduct against him credible. Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged shortcomings at the time and pledged to “turn these ideas into action.”
2018: UN investigators blame Facebook for providing a platform for hate speech in connection with the Myanmar genocide of Rohingya Muslims
A UN investigator said that Facebook played a “determining role” in Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya Muslims, stating that hate speech and plans to organize killings flourished on the platform.
“It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities,” the investigator said.
Facebook ultimately acknowledged that the platform enabled violence and apologized for not doing more to stop it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
2018: Facebook admits that Cambridge Analytica, a controversial data-analysis firm linked to the Trump campaign, improperly obtained and mishandled millions of users’ data
Following a bombshell investigation by The Guardian, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a firm who improperly obtained and used the data of millions of users to serve pro-Trump ads in advance of the 2016 election. The Trump campaign reportedly paid Cambridge Analytica millions of dollars for its services, which violated Facebook’s advertising partner terms but happened under the social media giant’s watch.
2018: Following widespread protests from its employees, Google agrees not to renew a secretive contract to help the Pentagon build AI for drones
Google quietly established a partnership with the Pentagon on a fast-moving project to develop AI software for analyzing and assisting in drone strikes — a move that many at the company didn’t know about, and that drew widespread protests after it was first reported publicly by Gizmodo. After backlash, the company agreed not to renew the Pentagon contract. However, an unnamed company that partnered with the Pentagon on the same project still used an “off-the-shelf Google Cloud platform,” the Intercept reported.
2019: Messages show top Boeing officials knew about “egregious” problems with the 737 Max years before 2 deadly crashes
At least two years before two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes, a top Boeing pilot was warned of “egregious” problems with the planes, messages obtained by The New York Times revealed. The crashes, which took place in October 2018 and March 2019, killed 346 people. After the second crash, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded, and Boeing’s handling of the incident is the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.
2019: Concerns with WeWork’s business model and management cause a failed IPO attempt, an ousted CEO, and a tanked valuation
In one disastrous month, WeWork saw its valuation drop to billion from billion, removed Adam Neumann as CEO, and cancelled its once-hyped initial public offering after investors and media raised serious questions with the company’s financials and Neumann’s eccentric managerial style. The WeWork saga is still unfolding, but the company is expected to lay off up to a quarter of its current staff in the coming months as it aims to stabilize a path to profitability.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” —Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Navy, how they should actually be hating on the Navy, how the Navy hates on the Navy, and why to really love the Navy.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Navy
Sailor harassment has its roots in the age-old reality that since man first decided to put military power to sea in ships, those aboard those ships were forced to spend weeks and months underway before being afforded a few days of downtime in a foreign port. As a result of this ratio, sailors may have had a tendency for exuberance while on liberty over the years. And that exuberance may have caused a scuffle or two that caught the attention of bar owners and other locals who may have developed impressions that were less than positive.
Over time these locals spread rumors that these sailors couldn’t hold their liquor and tended to burn through what little cash they had in a short time. Word of these phenomena returned stateside, which gave birth to the saying, “spending money like a sailor on liberty.”
Because sailors spend time on the water, service members from other military branches wanted to give them a nickname that was both sufficiently pejorative and germane. Naturally marine life came to mind. “Sharks” was too cool and tough and “guppies” was too cute, so they settled on “squids.” So if you want to make fun of a sailor call him or her a “squid.” They really hate that because squids are spineless and ugly and otherwise devoid of personality. (They can swim fast, but nobody really cares about that.)
Because SEALs. In the wake of the Bin Laden raid, SEALs have managed to morph from silent professionals to the warfare specialty that is quick to tell all to land book and movie deals.
Because Top Gun. No other military movie in history has done more to give the public the wrong idea about what it means to serve. And it’s got a lot of homoerotic imagery, which leads to . . .
. . . The quickest way to strike a squid’s nerve is to make “gay” jokes. Yes, you know the kind, “100 sailors go out, 50 couples come back,” or “it ain’t gay if it’s under way,” and many, many more. It also doesn’t help that sailors are a popular gay fantasy.
Henri Belolo created the Village People around macho male stereotypes that gays fantasize about. The cowboy, cop, construction worker, leather-clad biker, Indian, and the sailor. The band became popular, moved into the mainstream and took the sailor in the cute Crackerjack uniform along with it. Yes, we said “cute.” Admit it, the sailor dress uniform has more in common with the Japanese school girl uniform than with the other service branches.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, of course. This is, after all, the post-DADT world.
Because nuclear power. While the introduction of this science gave Navy ships the ability to sail a long, long time without refueling, the existence of it also created a zero-tolerance culture that has raised the bar of fun suppression to heights that can never be lowered. And this ability to sweat the load has crossed over into other warfare specialties and other branches of the military. Thanks, Nukes . . .
Why to actually hate the Navy
Every service tries to imitate the Marine Corps when it comes to celebrating its birthday, and the Navy’s history makes this in many ways the biggest joke (which is a polite way to say “the biggest lie”). While the Navy uses October 13, 1775 as the birth date, they leave out the fact that the first version of the U.S. Navy was dismantled completely after the Revolutionary War because the ragtag bunch of vessels they managed to assemble on the fly did little to protect ports or disrupt the British in any way.
And this anti-Navy sentiment in and around DC lasted a while after that. Thomas Jefferson hated the idea of a standing Navy and few in Congress thought any differently about it. It wasn’t until early Navy badass Stephen Decatur decided to take a couple of ships to Tripoli to raise some Yankee hell against the Barbary Pirates. His successes made lawmakers take notice and actually warm to the idea of a standing Navy, and one with an over-the-horizon outlook.
So the real birth date of the Navy would be somewhere around 1810 when Decatur took the USS United States up and down the east coast to show the American public what they had in terms of seagoing capability.
Hate SAPR training and the CYA leadership atmosphere you’re currently serving under? Blame the Navy.
All the mechanisms that surround using the military as a social experiment and other morale-sapping things that get labeled as “politically correct” started with the Tailhook Scandal in the early ’90s. Of course, sexual battery, never mind harassment, is a bad thing that should never be tolerated, but Navy leadership over the years has done little to stop agenda-based over-corrections that have marginalized the culture in undesirable ways (in the eyes of those who intimate they know about warfighting and such).
So, regardless of your branch, if you feel like you’re serving in a nanny state, blame the Navy.
Because Jimmy Carter. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a submariner, but he never really acted like it when he was Commander-in-chief. His “man is inherently good” naivete made for some very bad foreign policy, most notably in how he de-fanged the CIA and emboldened the Iranian government to take Americans hostage for 444 days. And the Desert One rescue attempt was a disaster. Basically his time in the White House made the country very happy to see Ronald Reagan.
And because the Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to changing uniforms. Remember aviation greens? How about service dress khaki? No? Well, here’s one for you: aquaflage. What are you hiding in, the water? And if a sailor is in the water don’t you want to be able to see him or her? We rest our case.
Because they wrecked most of what was cool about the band Godsmack and made them corporate sellouts.
Because sailors don’t have to eat MREs when they deploy. Ships are built with mess decks and Navy cooks (and supply officers) generally take pride in serving the crew good food.
Why to love the Navy
Because Navy SEALs. They popped OBL and the Somali pirates and many more high value bad actors since 9-11. Their warfighting skills are second to none.
Because Hollywood remains enamoured by Navy life, it keeps teeing up Navy-themed shows like “The Last Ship,” and as a result, the general public has a favorable opinion of the military.
Because strike warfare. As has been the case throughout history U.S. Navy carriers and surface combatants were the first on the scene after 9-11, and because of that we were able to take it to the enemy a mere three weeks after the homeland was attacked.
Because the U.S. Navy really is, as the commercials state, “a global force for good.” From Hurricane Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the tsunami in Thailand, when a country needs humanitarian assistance, the Navy has always been first on the scene.
Because the Navy continues to fight “the war between the wars.” The Navy goes to potentially hostile places like the littorals of Yemen and Chinese-claimed islands to prove to those nations that we’re willing to protect the sea lanes to keep goods moving safely to and from our shores.
Kaleth Wright is the incumbent Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He is the 18th CMSAF and only the second person of color to hold the rank. In the 27 years preceding his appointment, Chief Master Sgt. Wright (obviously) lead an illustrious career. But in late November of 2016, something miraculous happened.
One day, in a manger, a legend was born. It was nearly Thanksgiving in the cold, far-away land of the District of Columbia when the story of the man who come to be known as “Enlisted Jesus” first took root. On the following Valentine’s Day, Chief Master Sgt. Wright took the helm and, almost instantly, began to rain down blessings upon the world’s greatest airpower.
There are countless reasons airmen shower Enlisted Jesus in praise, but here are three very real, very specific justifications for his quickly-spreading moniker.
Come o’ ye little children
Enlisted Professional Military Education overhaul
Rumor has it that one of the first items on the agenda of Enlisted Jesus was to free up the time and energy of his airmen so that they could better serve this great nation. His first, well-known, crack at freeing up that time? EPME 21.
The new system did not get rid of the requirement, but it did get rid of the Time-in-Service bit that automatically signed up service members according to how long they’ve been in uniform, regardless of rank, and too often stripped them of the chance to attend EPME courses in-resident.
Have you heard of his goodness?
(Air Force Nation)
EPR? Not for E-3 and below!
One of the most dreaded moments in many an airman’s career is Enlisted Performance Review time! Even if you’ve been blessed with a sharp supervisor and have recorded all of your accomplishments meticulously, it’s still going to give you a spike in cortisol. They get easier to do as time goes along, but those first few can be downright scary.
For the supervisor — especially the young supervisor — this time is a fiery trial of skill and fortitude. You have your supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who’s getting sh*t from the 1st Sgt, up your ass to get this done on time, even if you’re early.
Now put together a new supervisor and a green troop. What does this combination yield come EPR? A stressed out, ineffective set of airmen.
Enlisted Jesus decided to kill that noise by removing the requirement for anyone who is promotion-eligible.
No, Enlisted Jesus likely didn’t make the call to bring the OCP and move away from that sage grey, tiger stripe getup so many of us loathe. Hell, he probably didn’t even have too much of say in that decision at all.
He has, however, been very vocal in support of them and is largely seen as the face and force behind them finally becoming the official duty uniform of the Air Force.
Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.
Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.
And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.
“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”
Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.
Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.
The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.
“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”
Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.
Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”
John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.
Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.
She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”
She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.
In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.
Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.
“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”
Move to Missouri
John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.
“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”
He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.
Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?” The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.
John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.
“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”
Whiteman Air Force Base
Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”
Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.
Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.
Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.
So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.
“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”
After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.
By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.
Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.
For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”
For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”
It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”
The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.
Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.
There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.
From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.
“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.
The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.
The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.
“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.
At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”
Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.
“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”
“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”
Units from the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2018, only three months after deploying.
The Truman’s time at sea was only about half as long as typical deployments, and the early return reflects the Pentagon’s shift toward “dynamic force employment,” a concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to make the military more responsive to emerging threats.
“The National Defense Strategy directs us to be operationally unpredictable while remaining strategically predictable,” US Navy Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said a release announcing the return to port, which he said was “a direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the US Navy.”
Grady said the carrier group “had an incredibly successful three months in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility,” an area that stretches from pole to pole between the mid-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk
However, the Truman and its accompanying vessels finished their time at sea much closer to home — in the western Atlantic closer to Canada than to Europe, according to USNI News.
The cruiser Normandy and destroyers Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke are set to return to Norfolk in July 2018, while the destroyers Bulkeley and Farragut remain at sea, a Navy official told The Virginian-Pilot. An official with Fleet Forces Command did not return a request seeking details about what operations these ships have been performing. But anti-submarine operations have become a bigger priority for the US and its allies.
The Truman’s anti-submarine capabilities are limited to the helicopters it carries, but the strike group did deploy in early 2018 with more destroyers than usual.
Those ships are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare assets that aren’t typically used in the Atlantic, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former submariner, told USNI News in June 2018. Operating in the Atlantic would give carrier strike groups opportunities to carry out high-end exercises with partner forces, he said.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
The North Atlantic become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).
“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in early 2018. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”
The US and its allies have put more energy and resources into anti-submarine warfare. That includes a new focus on the Cold War maritime surveillance network that covered the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — known as the GIUK Gap. The US Navy has spent several million dollars refurbishing Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland to handle the advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, though the Navy has said those upgrades don’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
Nevertheless, focusing on the GIUK Gap may fall short of the challenge NATO now faces.
For much of the Cold War, the Soviet navy lacked land-attack cruise missiles and would have had to leave its “bastion” in the Barents Sea in order to engage NATO forces, which made the GIUK Gap an important choke point at that time, according to Steven Wills, a military historian and former US Navy surface-warfare officer.
But with the development of sub-launched missiles — especially the modern Kaliber cruise missile — “Today’s Russian Navy can remain within its Barents bastion and still launch accurate attacks against ships in the Norwegian Sea and NATO land targets without leaving these protected waters,” Wills argues in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security, a professional military journal focused on naval strategy.
NATO should adopt a deterrent posture like that of the Cold War, Wills says, “but the locus of the action is much further north than Iceland.”
NATO’s decision to reestablish an Atlantic Command, to be based in Norfolk, is a welcome one, Wills writes, but that headquarters should focus on air and port facilities around the Norwegian and Greenland seas, even forward-deploying to oversee activity there. Surface vessels may need to partner with unmanned assets to cover a greater area as sea ice recedes.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is based on the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea, and a more active NATO naval presence in the area would almost certainly draw protests from Moscow, which has accused the alliance of trying to box in it and its allies in Europe. But a presence in the northern seas is necessary, according to Wills.
“The real ‘Gap’ where NATO must focus its deterrent action is the Greenland, Svalbard, North Cape line at the northern limit of the Norwegian and and Greenland Seas,” he writes. “It is again time to consider deterrent action and potential naval warfare in the ‘High North.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Keenan Reynolds is living a double life. The breakout NFL wide receiver was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round in 2016 but eventually found himself in Seattle, taking passes from quarterback Russell Wilson. In his other life, however, he goes by the title Lieutenant Junior Grade Reynolds.
Reynolds is currently on the practice squad for the Seahawks, but the onetime Navy QB made his big league debut this year for Baltimore and later, Seattle. Except in the pros, he’s a wide receiver.
On the days when Reynolds isn’t wearing the Seahawks uniform, he’s decked out in another uniform: the U.S. Navy’s.
Right now, Keenan Reynolds’ Navy work is as a cryptological warfare officer. He’s not allowed to go into further detail.
“I can’t really give the details, to be honest with you,” the first-year wideout told the Seattle Times. “Just… we’ll just say cyber.”
His previous work with the Navy saw him as the starting quarterback for the Midshipmen in a stellar football career that saw him break the career rushing touchdown record, the NCAA touchdown record, and career total touchdowns along with the career passing yards records.
Most importantly, he was the only Navy QB to go 4-0 against Army.
U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was awarded the 86th AAU James E. Sullivan Award on April 10, 2016 at the New York Athletic Club. He shared the award with UConn women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart, who was not in attendance at the ceremony.
Reynolds was the last service academy football player to enter the NFL draft under Obama-era rules regarding academy exemptions. The Department of Defense used to offer elite athletes from its service academies a waiver to defer their active duty service and go into the ready reserve instead.
It allowed players like Keenan Reynold the chance to pursue NFL careers at a time when their chances are the best at being drafted. The rules granted these exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Those waivers were rescinded by the Trump Administration. Now, academy athletes will no longer have the option of a two-year service waiver.
Unfortunately for Reynolds, it was uncertainty about his service obligation that kept him from being invited to the 2016 NFL Combine.
Reynolds was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016.
“I’ve got eight years in the reserves,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I am two years in. So, basically, I owe a certain number of drills a year, and a certain number of active-duty days.”
He went on to say that he was humbled to know he was the last of his kind to be granted a service waiver to pursue his football dreams, but he knows that his fellow academy grads will never give up on their own dreams. They’ll just go for it as soon as they can.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The first veteran interviewed is Walter Stitt.
Walter served in World War II as a tank gunner. He was assigned to E Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Upon answering the call and enlisting, his father gave him a piece of advice. He told Walter to not tell the Army that he was a truck driver, but to say he was a student — “maybe they’ll send you to school,” he mused. So, Walter listened to his father and told the Army he didn’t want to have anything to do with a steering wheel. And so, Walter was promptly assigned to be a tanker — which had levers and not a wheel (got to love Army humor, right?).
Stitt participated in the Normandy campaign and was initially anchored offshore because the weather was so bad. After three days, the tanks finally were allowed to move onto the beach and into the infamous hedgerow country of the Normandy peninsula. A mile up the road, he had to dig his first foxhole — and he quickly found out why. That night, a German bomber rained fiery mayhem on troops just a few yards from his position. After that, Walter said, “whenever they said ‘dig a foxhole”, I was one of the ones who grabbed a shovel and started.“
US M4 Sherman, equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry walking alongside.
When Steve Austin asks, “what was it like the first time being shot at?” Stitt tells us a harrowing story of a sniper taking a shot at him and missing by a “matter of a couple of inches.” Unfortunately, not all of his fellow troops were so lucky. “If a tank got hit, usually someone got killed… That was the sad part.”
So, how dangerous was it to be a tanker during World War II? The 3rd Armored Division had more killed in action than the 101st Airborne. In that Division alone, over 22,000 men were killed and over 600 tanks were lost in the campaign to liberate Europe.
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s questions help Stitt take us on an amazing journey into one of the most far-reaching conflicts in history. To learn more, straight from the mouths of allied heroes, check out the interview.
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
The Taliban have killed more than 200 Afghan soldiers and police officers in four provincial districts in the last three days, with the heaviest losses occurring in the key city of Ghazni just south of Kabul, according to The New York Times.
More than 100 Afghan security forces have been killed in Ghazni, about 40 to 100 were killed in the Ajristan District, more than 50 were killed at a base in Faryab Province, and at least 16 were killed in the northern Baghlan Province, The New York Times reported.
Afghan defense minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said Aug. 13, 2018, that 194 Taliban fighters and at least 20 civilians had also been killed, according to TOLO News, adding that 1,000 extra Afghan troops have been sent to quell the situation.
“With the deployment of additional troops to the city, we have prevented the collapse of Ghazni province,” Bahrami said, according to The Washington Post.
But there have been contradictory reports about how much of Ghazni the Taliban has taken.
“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said MAug. 13, 2018, adding that the situation was “relatively quiet” despite admitting the US has carried out more than a dozen airstrikes in the area since Aug. 11, 2018.
But Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of the Ghazni provincial council, told Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty on Aug. 12, 2018, that only “the police headquarters, governor’s office, and a few departments are under Afghan forces’ control. … The rest are under the Taliban fighters’ control.”
And Mohammad Arif Shahjahan, a lawmaker from Ghazni, told CNN on Aug. 13, 2018, that the Taliban fighters still controlled several governmental buildings and had even taken the police headquarters.
Videos posted on social media on Aug. 12, 2018, even appear to show Taliban fighters strolling through the streets.
‘Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us’
“We’re running out of hospital rooms; we are using corridors and available space everywhere,” Baz Mohammad Hemat, the director of the hospital in Ghazni, told The New York Times, adding that 113 dead bodies and 142 wounded had gone through the hospital.
“Bodies are lying around, they have decomposed, and no one is doing anything to evacuate them,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, a provincial council member, told The New York Times.
Meanwhile in Ajristan District, located about 90 miles west of Ghazni, the Taliban drove two vehicles packed with explosives into an Afghan commando base on Aug. 10, 2018, killing nearly 100 government troops, The Times reported.
In the northern Faryab Province on the border of Turkmenistan, an Afghan Army base had been under attack for nearly three weeks in one provincial district when the Taliban launched a heavy assault on the base on Aug. 10, 2018, killing more than 100 security forces, The New York Times reported.
“We don’t know what to do,” Captain Azam in Faryab told The Times, apparently before the Taliban launched the major assault. “Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us from three sides with rockets.”
Azam was killed shortly after talking to The Times over the phone, The Times reported.
These Taliban assaults are the largest since the group assaulted the capital of Farah Province in May 2018, an event that unfolded much like the one in Ghazni, with Kabul and Resolute Support downplaying the situation, and local reports showing and saying that the Taliban took much of the city.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a foreign policy world full of different carrots and sticks, the CIA used an interesting incentive to dangle from a pole of enticements: Viagra.
Where money and guns have been the traditional tools of clandestine diplomacy, the New York Times’ CIA sources say the big blue pill was renowned by aging Afghan warlords who have multiple wives to satisfy.
Running money to informants is difficult for the Agency. To keep their assets in place (that is to say, to keep them alive and feeding information) money isn’t always the best motivator. According to the New York Times’ CIA source, the informant will run out and buy conspicuous items with his new funds.
It won’t be hard to figure out where he got those funds.
Guns are another troublesome carrot for potential informants. The CIA has to assume that – in the Afghan world of fluid allegiances – any arms given to today’s ally could be used against American troops by tomorrow’s enemy.
So a magic blue pill that revitalizes an aging man’s libido while invigorating the same man’s ego is a perfect way to cement an uneasy alliance. The nature of the gift keeps the reward from being too obvious or flashy while at the same time, not being something potentially dangerous to U.S. troops in the country.
While Viagra is relatively well-known in Afghanistan (and reportedly sold in markets in the country), CIA officers operating in remote areas have to earn the trust of tribal leaders and be careful not to offend their religious sensibilities when making the initial pitch.
They also have to be careful not to offend anyone’s ego when explaining just what the pill does.
No word on whether Cialis is planning an expansion into the Afghan marketplace.
From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.
Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.
Pain is now a VA disability
For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.
Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.
Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)
Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.
What the ruling means for veterans
The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)
Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.
This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.
Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.
This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.